Colombia

COLOMBIA: Three different places, themes, CPT Colombia delegations for 2016. Sign up now!

Las Pavas community members have been repeatedly displaced from their land over the last twenty years by various different armed actors, the most recent being Aportes San Isidro, a palm oil company.  The palm oil industry is particularly powerful in the region, and uses a private security company to terrorize the community members, slashing their crops, burning down their houses, and poisoning their animals.  Through this example, we will help participants make links between Colombia and the North, as the presence of multinational corporations in Colombia has vastly increased since signing the Free Trade Agreement with Canada, the United States, and various European countries.

Land is a large part of the Colombian civil war, one of the longest in world’s history.  The conflict has resulted in over six million internally displaced people, who are often constantly on the move looking for land to provide for their families.  The majority of these people are peasant farmers, Afro-Colombians, and Indigenous Peoples, whose land is of political and economic interest to the parties of the conflict.  Often large landowners or multinational corporations take over the land and use it for cash crops for export, contributing to a global trend toward food insecurity.

Participants will have the opportunity to visit Garzal and Nueva Esperanza, where they will meet community members and engage in their experience.  These communities attribute their perseverance to their strong Christian faith, and as the country moves through a process of peace negotiations, we will hear from them about how that faith interacts with the conflict and what forgiveness and reconciliation means for them. 

COLOMBIA: Puerto Berrio--a liturgical action

CPTnet
17 December 2015
COLOMBIA: Puerto Berrio--a liturgical action

Hung around Puerto Berrio’s central plaza were large posters picturing its port, which declared “Puerto Berrio Lives and Dreams,” the theme commemorating the victims of the armed conflict in the region of Puerto Berrio. Survivors of the massacre of the Union Patriotica wore white, and youth from Medellin draped in black performed a drama showing the agony of loss and injustice. Over a hundred participants from the surrounding area gathered to solemnly declare that the lives of the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, community members, and friends would not slip away unnoticed and invisible.

 

Over the last weekend of November we joined our partners CAHUCOPANA for a two day symbolic event to mourn and demand justice for these victims. This liturgical action by CPTer Jhon Henry Camargo, presented at the event, draws on the parallels of experiences of Jesus and his followers and today's victims of 50 years of armed conflict who challenged the apparatus of violence and death, to continue to live and dream.

 

Please feel free to download or stream this video and screen at your place of gathering. Walk with us year end to support peacemakers in Colombia.

 

For best viewing, watch the video in HD and fullscreen. Non-spanish speakers remember to turn on the subtitles by clicking on "CC"

Puerto Berrio: a liturgical act from CPT/ECAP Colombia on Vimeo.

CPT International: A Call to Tend the Sheep--farewell thoughts from CPT´s Personnel Coordinator


Carrying with me all the privilege that CPT has taught me I cannot leave behind no matter how noble my intentions, I have patiently waited, CPT style, for an invitation to join local initiatives in Paipa, Colombia to transform violence and oppression.

Recently my wife Silvia and I joined a group of people in Paipa interested in creating a cats and dogs´ rescue and adoption center. Paipa is a town of 32000 inhabitants in the heart of the Colombian Andes, where we migrated a couple of years ago escaping the chaos of Bogotá, Colombia´s Capital city.

Adriana in the field and at home in Paipa.

Those of you who follow Colombian current events may recall Paipa as one of the epicenters of a National Campesino strike that shook the nation´s economy in August 2013. Indeed, a huge portion of Paipa´s population grows the food crops that we eat in other parts of the country.

Prayers for Peacemakers, December 2, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, December 2, 2015

Pray for the communities of Garzal and Nueva Esperanza.  They have petitioned the head of INCODER—the Colombian government agency in charge of rural land management—asking for representatives to visit the area to verify and resolve of the issues surrounding the granting of titles and ownership to land.   INCODER returned sixty-four stolen land titles in 2013, and promised to complete their land process the following year, but the communities continue to wait—and face pressures from powerful people who want their land, and who have corrupt local authorities on their side.

*Epixel for Second Sunday in Advent, December 6, 2015
Campesino from Garzal load plantains onto boat
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
    'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.


 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight,
    and the rough ways made smooth; 
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'" Luke 3:4-6
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing  with a text  from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

COLOMBIA: Justice delayed is justice denied

 

Pipio’s cows responded to him when he called them by name.

In Colombia the problem is not so much unjust laws, as it is the failure to apply existing laws and legislation in a timely manner. The communities Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Colombia accompanies are hugely affected by these failures, as is the entire country. In effect, such delays result in the continued impunity for perpetrators of crimes, thereby undermining the rule of law’s ability to prevent future crimes. Victims are not only denied justice and compensation; they are also at risk of becoming repeat victims of repeat offenders. The situation in which the campesinos of Las Pavas community, whom CPT has accompanied for five years, have been displaced from their land four times, due to government collusion with the palm oil company Aportes San Isidro, is emblematic. 

Pipio Dies Waiting for Justice

One campesino of Las Pavas who will never see justice is Rogelio Campos Gonzales, better known to his friends in the community as “Pipio.” Pipio was one of the very few members of the Las Pavas campesino community who remained on his land in the face of continual harassment by armed security personnel of palm oil company Aportes San Isidro (ASI). Most of his neighbours had given up and moved back to the nearby village of Buenos Aires. Pipio died on 13 April 2014 after suffering a heart attack. 

Prayers for Peacemakers, November 4, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, November 4, 2015 

Give thanks for the ten new Peacemakers who have successfully completed the 2015 Christian Peacemaker Teams training.  Pray that the Creator will work within them to give them the strength and courage they will need to do the difficult and rewarding work of peacebuilding with our partners in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine and Indigenous communities.




COLOMBIA: Shots fired in El Guayabo; community responds with nonviolent action

 

Eric Payeres (behind) presents Guayabo’s case to the
 Governor of Santander (middle).

Yesterday, Eric Payares—a leader of Guayabo’s legal struggle to claim its land—along with three other community members heard shots coming from the direction of the neighboring plot currently occupied by armed men working for Rodrigo Henao.

“They’re attacking us once again,” Payares said. “This time they’re firing shots at us.” Over the last year since the eviction on October 29, 2014, this five-hectare plot of land has been a location of continual attacks. Two days ago, similar to numerous previous occasions, Henao’s men cut fence wiring, which allowed cattle to enter and graze on Payares’s crops.

Henao claims that the community displaced his father with the help of guerillas in the 1980s, claiming victimhood through the current Victim’s Law demanding that the land be returned to him. On the other hand, the community has proven to have had no ties to armed groups and claims rightful ownership through occupation and use of the land for over twenty five years, after Henao’s father, Octavio Henao, abandoned the land due to an unpaid debt. This is Henao’s second attempt on claiming ownership. In the early 2000s he arrived accompanied by the notorious Bolivar Central Block, of the now demobilised paramilitary group, the Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) demanding the community abandon its land. This abuse of the recent victim and land restitution laws, written to bring reparation to victims of conflict, in addition to assassinations and death threats has sent a chilly warning to land rights activists and persons who resist displacement and claim ownership of land.

Prayers for Peacemakers, October 28, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, October 28, 2015

Pray for the communities in Simiti municipality, Colombia, that are experiencing post-election violence.  Pray that the authorities and those who benefitted from the previous power structure will respect the will of the people.  Christian Peacemaker Teams-Colombia accompanies two communities, El Garzal and Nueva Esperanza, in Simiti.

*Epixel for Sunday, November 1, 2015 
 Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD.
Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart Psalm 119:1-2
 
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing  with a text  from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

COLOMBIA: Two big reasons for celebration, two opportunities for prayer

 

A Las Pavas farmer looks for his name on the roster.Community members rotate
  turnsin guarding the communal house which has been attacked multiple
 times over the last few years. 

We rarely get opportunities to update you about positive developments. These last two weeks though, have brought the kind of news that inspires us.  News that promises  that one day peace may arrive in Colombia, that just maybe, justice will be done, and mercy shown.  Apart from political or judicial developments that once in a while turn in favor of the communities we accompany—that allow us to celebrate— we listen to stories of children, women and men to who despite life threatening risk, chose dignity; these are the people, the stories, and acts of courage that give us hope.

Earlier this week, the Constitutional court amended the Agrarian Law propelling forward about two hundred land cases around the country. Las Pavas, a farming community that we accompany, will benefit greatly by this decision granting them access to return to their land. Today, out of more than a hundred and fifteen families only twenty-four live on the farm, the rest live in a state of continual displacement. Up to this day since their return in 2011, after three displacements—once in 1996 by Emilio Escobar, uncle of the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, the second time by the AUC (Self-Defence Forces of Colombia), a highly organized and brutal paramilitary group, and in 2009 by a corrupt local Police inspector, whose eviction order the Constitutional court overturned— the community continues to suffer attacks to their person and property by armed guards or thugs hired by the palm oil company, Aportes San Isidro. Read about the court’s ruling to understand why this is so significant in their process, and why we celebrate. We'll take every small bit.   Read here >>

 

 

 
Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia shakes hands with Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, or more popularly known as Timochenko, the Supreme Commander of the FARC-EP as Raul Castro, President of Cuba, the brother of Fidel Castro encourages them. Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images

On 24 September,  the image above dominated the news all around Latin America, you might have even seen it on your local media outlet. The day before, in Havana, Cuba, the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People's Army (FARC-EP) agreed to the last of the six agenda items, concerning Transitional Justice after three years of negotiations. Both parties have committed to signing the final agreement and implementing the accord within six months. This will bring an end to one dimension of fifty years of armed struggle. Here are some articles that further explain the agreement.

COLOMBIA: Constitutional Court ruling changes the game in favour of Las Pavas

Yesterday, the Colombian Constitutional court removed two significant articles from the Agrarian Law. Large landowners who have acquired land through illegal means have been using these articles to prevent the Colombian state from recovering these lands. From now on, the courts cannot suspend the rulings of INCODER—the Colombian institute that regulates land titling—in the event of an appeal for revision.

An Aportes San Isidro palm oil worker tends to recently planted palm trees that surround young yucca and plantain trees.

 Two years ago, INCODER ruled that the disputed territory of Las Pavas belonged to the state, through a process of imminent domain. (The Las Pavas community had been working the land for more than thirty years.) Aportes San Isidro, the palm oil company, appealed this ruling before the Consejo del Estado, the highest administrative court, where the revision of this ruling remains stuck to this day and the implementation of INCODER’s ruling suspended.